The second day of Major League Gaming’s Winter Championship culled a field of nearly two hundred competitors to a lean twenty-four. The Columbus Convention Center was packed for the meat of the Starcraft 2 tournament, with fans cramming into MLG’s massive seating area while cheering, dancing with MLG commentator Sean “Day” Plott, watching some great Starcraft 2, and generally having a good time.
The story of the day had to be Complexity’s newest player, the Korean Terran “Heart”. When Complexity recently announced the acquisition of a trio of Korean players, including aging superstar Yoon-Yeol “NaDa” Lee, a Beckham-to-LA type pickup for the American based esports franchise, the addition of Heart was an afterthought. Now, it’s looking like the smartest deal of the three.
Heart, 22, has experience as a Starcraft: Brood War professional gamer, but his career was cut short due to health reasons. In Starcraft 2, his career had yet to take off, before this weekend; he’s found success in numerous online tournaments, but his biggest accomplishment is beating Ji-Sung “Bomber” Choi in GSL Code A. Pundits have questioned his ability to compete with the more established Koreans at this tournament, labelling him a one-dimensional player reliant on aggressive build orders. At MLG Columbus, his first live tournament outside of Korea, he’s worked hard to answer those questions.
Beginning his cinderella story in the open bracket, Heart won five straight matches while dropping only one map to advance to pool play. The list of victims include Swedish Zerg Stefan “MorroW” Andersson and Min-Gyu “Inori” Woo, a Korean Protoss and Western tournament veteran. Heart’s rampage did not stop there as he carried his momentum into Pool C, maintaining his undefeated record against players like the popular American Protoss Chris “HuK” Loranger. While he’s taken advantage of some of the aggressive tactics that won him the one-dimensional label, he’s also shown he can beat players straight up.
Heart has guaranteed himself a top six finish and at least a $3,500 payout, but his work is far from finished: he still hasn’t beaten one of those top established Korean stars, but he’ll have his chance soon today when he meets the defending GSL champion Soo-Ho “DongRaeGu” Park, someone who has done just as well in Columbus, but with a weighty resume to back it up.
DongRaeGu and Jung-Hoon “MarineKing” Lee continued their obliteration of their “competition” today, embarrassing the players MLG has placed in their paths. One month ago the two met in the finals of the MLG Winter Arena, a qualifier for the Winter Championship, and MarineKing came out on top. It’s likely DongRaeGu will have a chance for some payback on Sunday.
For those who like to cheer the underdog, the non-Korean players are your best bet, but they’re quickly becoming extinct in Columbus. Europeans seem to thrive while competing in their nation or origin, but the Americans have faltered this weekend, with only HuK (now a Canadian resident) with any hope at all of salvaging a result for red, white, and blue. The brooding Swedish Protoss Johan “NaNiwa” Lucchesi has positioned himself for a championship run on Sunday after recovering from a lackluster first day with two wins, but he has a hard draw in the bracket with two GSL champions, Polt and MC, gunning for him.
But, as Saturday has shown, and every esports event before this one, there’s always another chapter in the story. What will Sunday’s be?
The Starcraft tournament resumes at 10 AM EST (3 PM GMT) with the third round of the Championship Bracket. The upper bracket semifinals begin at noon EST (5 PM GMT), featuring DongRaeGu vs. Heart and MarineKing vs. PartinG.
If you’re reading RPS but still want to watch Halo: Reach or Mortal Kombat or something (it’s okay, I won’t tell anybody), the Halo pregame show kicks off at 11 AM EST (4 PM GMT), with the fighting games slated for 11:30 AM EST (4:30 PM GMT).
You can find the full broadcast schedule here and the MLG live stream here.
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